Four men go on trial in the Netherlands on Monday, in the first criminal case over the murder of 298 people on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
They are: Igor Girkin, also known as Strelkov, a former colonel in Russia's FSB intelligence service; Sergei Dubinsky, known as Khmury, who was employed by Russia's GRU military intelligence agency; Oleg Pulatov, known as Giurza, deputy head of the intelligence service in Donetsk and Leonid Kharchenko, known as Krot, a Ukrainian national with no military background who led a combat unit as a commander in Eastern Ukraine. But no-one is expecting any of the four suspects to fly to face justice. The Boeing 777 went down amid a conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Citizens of 10 different countries died on flight MH17. Three of the accused men are Russian and one is from eastern Ukraine.
The court says it is prepared to accept testimony from them by video link. Two weeks have been allocated for the start, which will cover mostly procedural aspects and establish whether indeed the trials will be conducted in absentia, without the accused. Some expectations are that the accused will not appear even via video link. There are 13 witnesses in the case whose identities will remain secret. Moscow insists it had nothing to do with the shooting down of the Boeing.